The youngest members of Red Sox Nation in our household are too young to remember the dry years. They have never seen their heroes as bums, or endured a second half of the season with the Sox slumping out of contention. These are their years of irrational exuberance.
They came to the game when their Dad was still on the delirious crest of the 2004 Series and before the 2007 championship. They saw their first giddy game at Fenway in June in great seats and the Sox won. The first time they saw the Old Town Team on the tube - in a Maine motel room on the way to a vacation without electricity on a magical island far out to sea - they formed emotional attachments to its marque players. Elias naturally went for Big Papi. Emily gave her heart unconditionally to Manny Ramirez.
I haven't yet had the heart to tell her he's gone.
Baseball teaches you to savor the rare moments of near perfection and to believe in miracles, all the while reminding you to get used to disappointment. The lessons of the grand cathedral of the grass come from Matthew 23:12. The homilies are all about hope and loss. Our communion of saints is reserved for those who have passed on to a better place, not fallen by the wayside. Where are Nomar, Pedro and Lowe? Joined another church. Where are Boggs, Clemens and Damon? Joined a rival sect. Change is certain. Give your heart and expect it to be broken. Risk love knowing it can't last. Some things endure.
Emily fell for Manny at first sight. How could she not? He was not the silent leader, brilliant behind the plate but woeful beside it. He was not the fleet-footed infielder, that springbok in a herd of wildebeest. No, she loved the class clown, charismatic and cute in his baggy uniform and oh so free and easy. I knew with certainty what every father of a tender-hearted daughter learns; this love would end in heartbreak, and there was nothing I could do to spare her. Perhaps postpone it for a day, but no more.
Most of us have been through all this before. Sox & Dawgs describes it perfectly:
"Think back to when you were 16 and fell in “love” that first time and then all of the sudden she dumps you for the high school quarterback or the star running back. You were sad, maybe even upset that your one true love was gone and you’d never be able to go on in life. You can admit that because we’ve all been there before in our lives.
Did you get over it? Sure you did but it took time. No matter if you loved her or hated her, you got over her and moved on to one of her friends probably (women can reverse the scenario to where he left you for the head cheerleader or one of the cheerleaders).
The same applies here. You will get over the loss of Manny. Yes you were expecting him to be wearing a Red Sox uniform for the rest of his career and now are thinking that you’re going to have to change the name of your dog or cat because you loathe Manny. All normal reactions I tell you because you will get over it.
If we sit here and lament over the loss of Manny, we aren’t going to be able to move on. Sure there’s going to be that grieving period where you pinch yourself just to make sure this wasn’t just all a bad dream. Believe me, I’m with you, I wish it was a bad dream too. I am even sure you might even sneak a peak at the Dodgers boxscore tonight just to see what Manny did. You might even have stopped by here earlier in the evening when we have posted what Manny has said in his press conference this afternoon at Dodger Stadium.
No matter what you do, you will be fine."
Will her love turn to loathing, her tender heart tenderized with a 33 oz bat? Will she carry a torch even as he wears the Dodger Blue? Or will she, with the wellsprings of an 8-year-old's empathy, somehow see through the casual clown to the tears within? Today, at least, Manny Ramirez' Official Site has not yet moved on from the Sox. Will he, ten years from now in a middle-aged funk, look back on his glory days, twisting the school rings of '04 and '07, and remember lost love?
I can tell her that this will pass, and share my own stories of Red Sox hope and heartbreak. I can hope that she falls for that nice kid Pedroia, or wingfooted Ellsbury. None of that will matter. Her heart is her own. It will find its way.